Weaving through coastal rainforest and tracing the rocky headland that marks Australia’s most easterly point, the 3.7km (2.3mi) Cape Byron walking track boasts some of the most spectacular coastal views in New South Wales. But Byron Bay’s famous walking loop, also known as the Lighthouse Walk, is far from the only place to stretch your legs in the region.
Located on the doorstep of an ancient, World Heritage-listed network of rainforests known as the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Byron Bay also makes an excellent base for exploring some of the state’s most beautiful national parks, which have plenty of hiking opportunities among them. South of Byron, there are also several great coastal walks worth seeking out.
Just under an hour’s drive west of Byron, Nightcap National Park is home to one of the region’s favourite pastimes: hiking to the base of the 100m-high (328ft-high) Minyon Falls. The 13km (8mi) loop, beginning at the top of the falls, takes around three hours – don’t forget your swimming costume if you fancy a dip at the bottom. There are seven additional formal trails to tackle in Nightcap, with highlights including the easy Protestors Falls walking track (1.4km/1mi return) and the more challenging Historic Nightcap walking track (18km/11mi one-way).
Weaving through the rainforest covering Broken Head before popping out on a grassy area overlooking Kings Beach, the Three Sisters walking track packs some pretty special scenery into its relatively short (1.6km/1mi return) length. Between spotting whales (May to November), learn about the Aboriginal story behind Three Sisters. According to legend, they fell in love with three men from another tribe, which was forbidden, and an elder turned the sisters into stone to protect them from an ensuing battle between the tribes.
Formerly known as Mount Warning National Park, Wollumbin National Park is best known for its eponymous mountain, which is visible from Bryon’s north-facing beaches. While it’s possible to hike to the 1,159m (3,802ft) summit of this ancient volcanic plug, the Bundjalung People of the Tweed Valley ask that you reconsider due to Wollumbin’s deep spiritual significance to the local Aboriginal community. Ending at a lookout amid the subtropical rainforest, the Lyrebird track (less than one kilometre) offers a more respectful way to experience the beauty of this national park.
Lennox Head to East Ballina Coastal Recreation Path
Linking Lennox Head with East Ballina, a 30-minute drive south of Byron, this little-known seaside trail lies along a seriously dramatic stretch of coastline. Taking about four hours one-way, the 13km (8mi) Coastal Recreational Path can be walked in either direction, with most hikers opting to leave their car at Shaws Bay in East Ballina, and catching the bus back from Lennox Head afterwards. The largely exposed trail offers little protection from the elements, so come prepared for sun and wind.
One of NSW’s newer national parks, created in 1999, Goonengerry National Park doesn’t have any facilities, but local bushwalkers have established several trails accessible from the car parking area on Garrong Road, just under an hour’s drive northwest of Byron. Taking in the crests of three waterfalls flowing into Wanganui Gorge, the 10.3km (6.4mi) Goonengerry Waterfall walking loop is a local favourite. As the track isn’t always well marked, and mobile reception in the park is poor, it’s worth downloading an offline map to help you find your way.
Just north of Goonengerry National Park, Mount Jerusalem National Park doesn’t have much tourism infrastructure either. However, that’s set to change in the coming years, with a multi-day hiking trail linking Mount Jerusalem National Park and Nightcap National Park – due for completion in 2022. There are still several trails to discover in the interim, however, including Hell Hole Falls, a 4km (2.5mi) walk along old fire trails to a series of small waterfalls. It begins at the gated entrance to Middle Ridge Trail Road, around an hour’s drive northwest of Byron, where you can leave your car.